George Chow

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Enlisting in 1940 and trained as a gunner, George Chow served in an all-Canadian crew that shot down the first German plane on English soil. « View Transcript

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Ramona Mar (Interviewer)

Nineteen year old Victoria-born George Chow didn't have a clue what he was in for when he volunteered for the army in the summer of 1940. All he wanted was to escape following his father into the hard life of pig-farming on Vancouver Island. During Basic Training at Seaforth Armouries in Vancouver George exchanged his pitch fork for a broom stick!

George Chow (Interviewee)

But of course in those days they didn't have any equipment at. To do gun drill there you have to have a gun. If we didn't have the gun, so we used, so they had a a people, with two guys, one at each end of a a a broomstick and he'd say, "Okay this is a gun. This is what you do." It's very primitive you know.


After more training in Windsor, Ontario, George's 16th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery pushed off to Halifax where they were to finally board a ship for Scotland. No sooner had the 2000 troops been loaded, an outbreak of measles forced everyone off and the men were placed in quarantine. The Halifax winter would be endured at Camp Debert.


It was unfinished and the latrine was outside. It was like an outhouse, and it's in the wintertime, and to wash we didn't have wash water. We had to get a mess tent. There was snow outside and bring the snow, melt it on ah, what they called a pot-bellied stove. . The hut was what they call an H hut. It was built like an H. In the centre was your washroom and your toilet and all but there was no water, no water, no latrine that was connected up til later on; so I said to get the water to wash we had to get the hand basin and then then every so often when they'd take the whole group down to another area, we had a shower (he laughs).


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It wasn't until April 1941 when George boarded the Polish liner, "Batory" and finally left camp life, and Canada behind. On board, George's troop did gun watch and at the end of the 10 day journey, settled at their assigned base in Colchester England.

From the nearby coast, George's detachment would have the honour of being the first all-Canadian gun crew to shoot down a German plane. As fate would have it, George slept through the big event, but he well recalls the jubilation.


Oh we were happy. Oh yeah, first time, cause in those days instead of coming over, coming over high, they came over, came over the English Channel very low. They were only a few feet above the water so the radar, radar; it was very primitive in those days. They couldn't pick them up,see? And they'd come over and when they'd come to the coast, fly above it. They might drop a bomb or strafe the village, the the village or whatever they had, the city; and then they'd fly back to Germany. But this unfortunate German, he got shot, yeah".


It was there in the midst of war and amongst the friendly British and the land of Wood Woodbine cigarettes that George's life was to take a romantic turn in the village of Selsey


I was at a dance there. I'm not much of a dancer but we just go. I go with the guys, you know, and we we met there uh, at the -- this is in Salsey in in one of the dance they have. And uh, that that was the start of the relationship and later we got married .


George's bride Mabel Rose would be one of almost 45,000 European women to marry Canadians serving during the Second World War. Before long, Mabel Rose bore her dashing Chinese-Canadian soldier husband a set of twins.

What were you thinking when you decided to get married in wartime? Were you just, was this just the whim of a young, young couple in (Well, you know) love?


Love at first sight, stuff like that. All that jazz, you know (laughter)


With his wife and family safely in England, George led the risk-filled life of a gunner and later, in motor transport in France.


You just live from day to day actually, you know. You never think. Don't tell me. If somebody says they never never, they weren't scared, then they're just lying. Darn right you're scared


Despite the risk, George had already decided he would join his unit to continue fighting against the Japanese after victory in Europe. But his Pacific adventure was cut short by the bomb on Hiroshima and George returned to Canada to build a home for his English wife and children.

Life in military service evidently suited George. With a job working in grocery wholesale and 5 children at home, George signed up for the Reserves in 1953 retiring 12 years later as battery sergeant major. He says, "once a gunner, always a gunner".

Do you think Canadians know enough about your contribution during the war?


As a matter of fact I had, I got a veteran's plate and this guy asked me, he's a grown man.. He says, "What does veteran mean?" ..

I think well he's, "You're real, he's really ignorant about the whole fact. It's not because he was he was being smart. He didn't know what the what the veteran mean. He didn't know that word".

Did you Know?

Did you know that gunner George Chow brought home as his wife, one of the estimated 45,000 war brides to Canada?

Copyright to Produce

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Interviewee: George Chow

Duration: 5:13

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